By Jim Schutze
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Given the drastic stylistic break from his band's convoluted, eight-bit screamo-thrash roots, Avery Williamson struggled with the question of whether to change the name of his music project.
After all, everything is different. The arrangements have become more sophisticated. The melodies have taken a J-pop-influenced turn. Most dramatically of all, thanks to the addition of a second band member, Yuria Hashimoto, cool soft female vocals have replaced Williamson's own screaming.
But ultimately he decided to stand by the band's past, no matter how much he has matured in the years since he started recording as a 17-year-old in Austin, no matter how much his fan base has changed, no matter that the music could hardly even be considered to be in the same genre. Five years later, the name, if nothing else, remains the same: Fizzy Dino Pop. But as satisfied as he was with the direction his music was heading, many of his teenage emo-kid fans did not appreciate the change.
"It was a pretty natural transition," Williamson says. "Making music by myself, there's not any limitations or pressure to make a certain sound. So as my music taste changed over time, the sound naturally changed.
"There was a really sharp contrast in between EPs, and a lot of my fan base changed. Some of my older fans were disappointed with the newer sound. In the end, I think more people were turned on by what I'm doing now."
He includes himself among those more turned on by what he's doing now—largely because of how much more serious he is now about his musicianship.
"I wasn't serious," he says of his early efforts. Once or twice a year, he'd put out EPs that he would give away or sell through PayPal, but he didn't put much thought into the spastic, computer-generated emo thrash he was creating until he got to know his first college roommate, a Japanese jazz guitarist who turned out to have a big influence on his evolving sound. Fizzy Dino Pop may not have much in common with the guitarist's music of choice, but Williamson was nonetheless impressed by his dedication, the sophistication of jazz composition and the seriousness with which University of North Texas jazz musicians approached their craft.
His friendship with Alan Palomo and Gray Gideon of the Denton-based electro group Ghosthustler proved just as important. Fizzy Dino Pop and Ghosthustler played shows together and collaborated on remixes, and Gideon was an invaluable source of information about Ableton Live (the software Williamson uses for sequencing, live DJing and creating loops). Even after the breakup of Ghosthustler, Williamson remains friends with them. He still considers Gideon his "go-to guy" for technical help and musical troubleshooting. And he's still collaborating with Palomo, who went on to create disco-pop project Vega and the warped, groovy pop of Neon Indian.
"I remember him starting Neon Indian," he says. "It's a really big deal now, but I remember when he first started putting it together, we were trying to figure out ways to put it out there."
But his most important friendship came about six months ago when he met Hashimoto, a student from Kyoto, Japan, studying fashion merchandising at UNT through an exchange program. After bonding over their similar tastes in music, she invited him to DJ at an event. Williamson, who studies Japanese and international relations at UNT, had taken a recent interest in Japanese pop (J-pop), and was looking to add female vocals and soften his sound. Hashimoto had never tried singing or performing music before, but he convinced her to give it a shot. Both loved how her voice sounded over his tracks.
Even if some of Fizzy Dino Pop's early teenage fans haven't appreciated the changes, one record label took notice. Swedish label Envex Vacenz Novex will print 1,000 7-inch EPs featuring new songs. The label will release 500 in Europe and 500 in the States, with a follow-up pressing of another 1,000 if the first run is successful.
Williamson plans to debut the new material at Hailey's in Denton on Wednesday, December 9, at what he calls an "unofficial EP release." Also featured on the bill will be Sore Losers, a Dallas hip-hop duo who rap over eight-bit beats. The eight-bit connection has led to collaborations between the two projects, with Fizzy Dino Pop remixing the group's "Bizarre Celebrations" into an irresistibly catchy electro-dance anthem. Naturally, the two will join forces at the Hailey's show, with plans for Williamson to DJ during the Sore Losers set and rappers King Blue and Vince Brown to return the favor as guest MCs during the Fizzy Dino Pop set.
The show will also be Williamson and Hashimoto's last together before she returns to Japan on December 21. That means she won't be a part of a December 28 performance at the Granada Theater with Neon Indian. There, Williamson will play with a live drummer, Ishi's J.J. Mudd, for the first time. He also hopes to unveil a remix of Neon Indian's "Deadbeat Summer" at that show.
Hashimoto's return to her native Japan won't stop the pair's collaboration, though. She'll take new software and a microphone back to Kyoto and record vocals over tracks that Williamson sends her, but the collaboration won't be trans-Pacific for long, as the duo plans to tour the United States next summer and ultimately settle in Japan after touring that country in the fall of 2010.
The move may not make Fizzy Dino Pop's North Texas fans happy, as it will mean fewer local appearances. But, whether he leaves fans behind musically or geographically, Williamson doesn't seem to have any trouble finding new ones.